Advice guide Credit

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What the law says
Anyone who offers credit must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority
Most credit agreements are covered by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. If your
agreement is covered by the Act, it is called a regulated agreement. If you
have a regulated agreement, you are entitled to:
have specific information included in your agreement, such as the
amount you are borrowing, the length of the agreement, interest
rates, any charges, the amount and frequency of payments and
your cancellation rights (if applicable -see below). It must also
include the total charge for credit and the Annual Percentage Rate
(APR), which is the annual cost of credit after interest and all other
charges have been added together. If this information is not
included, the agreement may be unenforceable without a court
be given a copy of the agreement, which should be signed by both
you and the creditor. If you have not signed the agreement or been
given a copy of it, the agreement may be unenforceable without a
court order
be sent a statement or copy of other documents on request. You
may have to pay a small amount
be informed of the procedures to be followed, such as sending you a
default notice, before court action is taken.
Is your credit agreement a regulated agreement?
Your agreement will state under its heading whether it is regulated by the
Consumer Credit Act. Most agreements involving credit or hire charges (for
example, credit cards, personal loans, and most catalogue credit and hire
agreements) are likely to be regulated. There are some exceptions, such as low
cost credit from a credit union. Also, if you took out an agreement before 6 April
2008, there was a limit on the amount of credit covered by the Act. If you want
to check whether your loan is regulated, get advice from an experienced debt
adviser, for example at a Citizens Advice Bureau (see below).
Buying on credit
Before applying for credit, you should work out your regular outgoings to be
sure you can afford the extra payments each month. You will need to allow a
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certain amount for extras such as haircuts or holidays and for emergencies
such as household repairs. The following steps will help you find the best
shop around, to see whether you can buy the goods or service
cheaper elsewhere, as this will reduce the amount you have to
compare the cost of different types of credit by looking at both the
APR (see above) and the length of the agreement. A fixed interest
loan that you arrange yourself may be cheaper than arranging a loan
through the supplier. If you are using your credit card, try to estimate
how long it will take you to repay, taking the monthly interest charges
into account
you may be tempted by interest free or other special deals. Look at
the total cost of the deal - you may be able to buy the goods cheaper
elsewhere. If interest-free credit is offered for a limited period, make
sure you check what happens if you don’t finish paying during this
period. Often there is a high rate of interest payable from the
beginning of the agreement.
if you are offered insurance to cover your payments in certain
circumstances, check the cover is right for you and that you do not
fall into one of the excluded groups. Some policies exclude, for
example, self employed people or pregnant women. Can you find
cheaper or more inclusive cover elsewhere?
don't take out a loan secured on your home without considering the
consequences. If your circumstances change and you are unable to
keep up your monthly instalments, you could lose your home
before using a credit broker, shop around for a loan yourself first, as
you will either have to pay them a fee or commission for using their
A broker must tell you whether they are independent or whether they are tied
to any lenders. If they are tied to one or more lenders, this may mean that
they won't tell you about the full range of products on the market. If you have
been negotiating with a broker who hasn't arranged a loan within six months,
the maximum they can charge you is £5.
Before you sign a regulated credit agreement, the seller must give you a
document called 'Pre-contract information'. This should contain information
about the loan, including a financial quotation, terms and conditions,
cancellation and termination rights. The document should be easy to read,
and in a form that you can take away, so that you can compare the loan with
other products. The seller must also explain any features of the agreement
which might make it unsuitable for some people or which may work to their
disadvantage. You should also be warned about the consequences of failing
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to make repayments at the right time, for example, charges for late payments
and the possibility of legal action being taken against you.
Faulty goods or services bought on credit
If you pay for goods or services on credit and things go wrong, you may be
able to claim compensation from the credit company instead of the company
which sold you the goods or services. For example, you may have bought a
washing machine which is faulty or your internet connection isn't working
properly. This is called making an equal liability claim.
This can be useful where the trader or supplier has gone out of business or
has no money to compensate you.
To be able to claim, the price of any single cash item must be more than £100
but not more than £30,000. If the credit company won’t accept responsibility,
you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You can also
contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or contact the Citizens Advice
consumer service on 0345 404 0506.
Cancellation of a regulated credit agreement
By you:
You have the right to cancel a credit agreement within14 days of signing the
credit agreement. You don’t have to give a reason.
You’ll need to act quickly and notify the creditor immediately that you wish to
withdraw. It’s best to do this in writing although you can give notice verbally if
you haven’t much time. Make a note of what was said and the name of the
person you spoke to. You should then confirm this in a letter. Make a copy of
your letter and send it recorded delivery.
Once the 14 days has passed, any rights you may have to cancel your
agreement will be included in your contract and will depend on the type of
credit you took out:
credit card agreements can be cancelled by writing to the creditor,
enclosing the card(s) cut in pieces and making arrangements to
repay any money you owe. If you have a second card held by
someone else, this should also be returned
hire purchase or conditional sale agreements can be terminated
at any time by giving notice that you wish to return the goods and
cancel the agreement. This may be an expensive option, as you will
be liable for half the total amount payable under the agreement as
well as any arrears outstanding and compensation if any damage has
been caused to the item. Once you have paid a third of the total
amount payable under the agreement, the credit company cannot
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repossess the goods without a court order. Repossession without a
court order in these circumstances cancels the agreement so the
debtor can recover all the payments they have made
regulated hire agreements can be ended at any time after the first
eighteen months by giving notice, unless a shorter period is provided
for in the agreement. The minimum notice you have to give is the
notice stated in your agreement, the period between payments or
three months, whichever is shortest. There are some exceptions to
this rule for business users and expensive hire (currently those with
payments over £1500 per annum). In some cases, you may be
entitled to settle the agreement early and obtain a rebate. The
formula for calculating any rebate is set out in law. An experienced
adviser, for example, at your local Citizens Advice Bureau, could help
you check it.
By the credit company:
If you are in breach of your credit agreement (for example, behind in your
payments), the creditor must send you a default notice before they can take
certain types of action against you. This notice must specify the breach, tell
you how to remedy it, what action will be taken if you don't and give you a
time limit to put the matter right. If you fail to act on this notice, the creditor
may be entitled to terminate the agreement, demand early payment of the
sum owing, or repossess goods.
A lender can end a credit card agreement by giving you two months notice in
writing. They can also end your right to use your credit card either
permanently or for a temporary period, but they must tell you in writing that
they are going to do this and have a good reason. For example, the lender
may suspect you of fraud or have a reason to believe you won’t be able to
repay what you owe.
If your card is refused because you’re over the limit, this doesn’t mean your
agreement has been ended. You should be able to put things right by paying
back some of the money owed or reducing the amount you want to spend.
Credit refusal
You cannot insist on being given credit. The lender must assess your
creditworthiness before granting you credit. This will normally be done by
asking you questions about your circumstances and by carrying out a credit
reference check on you through a credit reference agency. Some lenders also
use credit scoring to decide whether to give credit.
Creditors do not have to give reasons for refusing to give you credit, although
you must be told if your application is refused because of information they've
got from a credit reference agency and you must be given the name of the
agency used. If credit scoring is used, the lender may be obliged, under a
code of practice, to tell you the main reason for refusing you credit.
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Lenders are not allowed to discriminate against you when deciding whether to
give you credit. This means they aren't allowed to refuse to give you credit just
because of your race, sex, disability, religion, sexuality or where you live.
However, a credit company is allowed to refuse credit to someone just
because of their age or if they have learning disabilities and are unable to
understand the nature of the contract they're entering into.
If your application for credit has been refused and there is a dispute about an
entry on your credit reference file, you can complain to the Office of the
Information Commissioner. Their website is
Credit reference agencies
There are three credit reference agencies, Callcredit, Equifax and Experian,
who collect and store information on everyone's financial situation.
Information held includes details of court judgments, bankruptcy, any property
repossessed, any other credit accounts you have and a record of everyone
who has requested a credit check on your file. The agencies do not hold
detailed information about your bank and building society accounts. Details
are not held about all court actions including liability orders for community
charge and council tax arrears. Credit information is usually held for six
years. You can check the information held by the credit reference companies
by writing to them asking for a copy. Alternatively, you can apply online via
the website. A small fee is payable. You can ask that incorrect information be
corrected, but cannot ask that correct information be removed. You can
contact Experian on 0844 481 8000, Equifax on 0844 335 0550, and
Callcredit on 0870 060 1414. The website addresses are:,, and
Credit repair agencies
Beware of companies which promise to repair your credit record for a fee.
They have no special powers to do anything you could not do yourself.
Credit scoring
Credit scoring is a system of awarding points for such things as your age,
occupation, marital status and whether you own your own home. If you have
been refused credit, you can ask the lender to review the decision and you
could provide any additional information you think would be relevant.
Credit card debts
If you can't pay the money you owe on your credit card, the credit card
company must keep to rules set out in a code of conduct. For example, if you
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are seeking advice from a not-for-profit agency such as Citizens Advice, they
must hold off collecting the debt for 30 days. In some cases, this time period
can be longer.
Further help
Citizens Advice Bureau
Citizens Advice Bureaux give free, confidential, impartial and independent
advice to help you solve problems. To find your nearest CAB, including those
that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB, or look under C in your
phone book.
Other information on Adviceguide which might help
Help with debt fact
Sample debt letters
Dealing with people
you owe money to
Help with debt
This fact sheet is produced by Citizens Advice, an operating name of
The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. It is intended to
provide general information only and should not be taken as a full
statement of the law on the subject. Please also note that the
information only applies to England, Wales and Scotland.
This fact sheet was last updated on 12 June 2014 and is reviewed
regularly. If it is some time since you obtained this fact sheet, please
contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau to check if it is still correct.
Or visit our website - - where you can
download an up-to-date copy.
Copyright © 2002-2014 Citizens Advice. All rights reserved
Registered charity no: 279057 Company no: 1436945 England